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In a move to boost its tourism sector, New Delhi has announced extending the visa-on- arrival facility to 180 countries.
The country’s Planning Commission after a high-level meet said the new facility would allow tourists to apply online and within a few days the visitors would be receive information about their visas on arrival.
“We have decided to extend visa-on-arrival to tourists from 180 nations. It will take five to six months to put the infrastructure in place. We hope to implement this from the next tourist session beginning October,” India’s Planning Minister Rajiv Shukla said..
“This move will provide a major boost to the country’s tourism sector. This is historic,” said the Minister.
The number of foreign tourists arriving in India grew by 13 per cent during the first nine months of 2013, United Nation World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) data showed.
The visa-on-arrival facility will be initially offered at nine airports across India for a period of 30 days, then it will be extended to other airports as well.
India currently offers visa-on-arrival to nationals of 11 countries, including the Philippines, Singapore and Japan.
India is among the top 25 largest international tourism earners, but lag behind considerably in comparison with neighbours like China and Singapore in the list of the world’s most visited places.
International tourist arrivals grew by 5 per cent in 2013, reaching a record number of arrivals of just over 1 billion, according to the latest World Tourism Barometer published by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in January this year.
Russia and China clearly lead the list of most visited countries, UNWTO noted. China, which became the largest outbound market in 2012 with an expenditure of $102 billion, saw an increase in expenditure of 28 per cent in the first three quarters of 2013. Russia, the fifth largest outbound market, reported 26 per cent growth through September.
Demand for international tourism in 2013 was strongest for destinations in Asia and the Pacific (up 6 per cent), Africa (up 6 per cent) and Europe (up 5 per cent), says the UN.
TBP and Agencies